Shen Mu – Volume 2 Chapter 6

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Volume 2 Chapter 6: Rosy Cheeks1

Watching Nalan Ruoshui’s silhouette disappear out his courtyard gate, a boom reverberated through his mind.

“If I were esteemed? If I had unrivalled power? Right, either of those circumstances could change your fate.”

“You’re seriously an idiot. You’re usually neither stupid nor foolish, but when things come to a head…” The Old Poison Devil’s shining white head poked up from behind the wall.

“F*ck! Damn old man, this is the umpteenth time you’ve peeped on me.” With that said, he grabbed a bamboo pole off the ground and hurled it to where the old man had just shown himself.

“Shit! Boy, you actually readied a bamboo pole in advance…”

Putong!” The Old Poison Devil was hit and fell.

“Ouch… Oh God, my pitiful Xiao Lu, you’ve been squished dizzy again…”

“Again that toad he loves so much!” Chen Nan turned around and went inside his house.

He didn’t settle down for quite some time. His mind was filled with countless emotional thoughts. He ultimately delivered a booming fist to the small tea table. Specks of golden light shattered the small table. He decisively stood up and said to himself, “I can’t watch as Nalan Ruoshui ends up as a lamb in a tiger’s den. I’m forced to act!”

However, in the several days since, Chen Nan hadn’t seen Nalan Ruoshui at all. She hadn’t visited the Residence of Eccentrics.

Chen Nan was inwardly anxious as he sat around restlessly. The Old Poison Devil, assuming a profound look, sat on top of the wall and said, “Idiot, that day, you shouldn’t have basically told her to leave by herself. Happiness is something you must strive for on your own. When it flies away, even if you want to capture it, you can’t. If only you had another chance, you wouldn’t have this lifelong regret! Ai, why do people only try to remedy things after they’ve already lost it?”

Chen Nan disregarded his nonsensical words and departed from the Residence of Eccentrics. He went to the Imperial Library’s room of ancient books again, hoping to try his luck. He was hoping he’d be able to bump into Nalan Ruoshui there. But he was disappointed. The manager of the ancient book room informed him that Nalan Ruoshui hadn’t visited in the past few days. Melancholic, he drew out a book from the bookshelf in passing and senselessly read it.

Suddenly, an elderly sigh sounded from behind him: “Ai!”

Chen Nan nearly jumped in surprise. He turned around and found it to be that old man who had led him into the underground ancient tomb.

The old man’s crooked body tottered as he walked to him.

Chen Nan was trembling in fear. He wasn’t afraid of the old man falling over—he was deeply aware of how much overwhelming power was hidden within his old, feeble body—he was simply worried for his own life. He’d known all along that this enigmatic, dreadful old man could suddenly silence him at any point in time.

“Hehe, youngster, don’t be anxious. I’ve already told you I hold no malice towards you. Don’t brood so much over it. I truly admire you a lot. Few in years, yet your body already possesses a spiritual root, and you can draw back the sealed Houyi Bow too. Your prospects are unlimited!”

“You know of my identity?”

“Although I’m old, I’m not senile. I know a bit of all the matters in the imperial capital. It’s just that I normally don’t feel like caring about those mundane affairs.”

Chen Nan was taken aback.

The old man said, “People only have one life! Ai, some people are destined to be nothing more than mere bystanders in your life. Along with the passing of time, these people end up growing gradually fainter until there’s no trace of them remaining.”

“Uh…” Chen Nan was currently truly startled. The old man’s topic of discussion harboured hidden intentions. It seemed like he was referring to the affair involving Nalan Ruoshui. He felt like his inner world lay completely bare in front of the old man. He inwardly said, “This old man is truly an old monster, a profound mystery.”

Chen Nan said, “Yes, some people are destined to be nothing more than a bystander in one’s life. However, I won’t watch the friends I’ve intersected with suffer misfortune!”

The old man laughed, “Hehe, don’t be emotional, we’re having nothing more than a casual chat.”

Chen Nan was a bit apprehensive without knowing why the old man had come to find him again.

The old man abruptly asked, “Youngster, tell me, do you want to leave the Empire of Chu?”

“This…” He was utterly stunned.

“I’ve already told you, I admire you greatly. I really want to see what kind of level of cultivation a junior with boundless potential can clamber up to, so you don’t have to be afraid. I won’t harm you.”

Only now did Chen Nan begin to feel convinced. Regardless of what this monster’s purpose was, he definitely wouldn’t injure him at the present time.

The old man said, “When you’ve become as old as me, although you never wholly relinquish worldly affairs, you nearly will. My mind only consists of cultivation. I only seek to transcend life and death. However, when you leave, I hope you won’t cause too much of a hubbub.”

Chen Nan neither nodded nor shook his head.

“There are many hidden dragons and crouching tigers in the imperial capital. Experts are aplenty. Youngster, you must by all means not act impulsively!”

As Chen Nan listened, cold sweat flowed profusely. When he finally got up to leave, he heard the old man say from behind, “Soon, I might wonder around the continent. I can’t say for sure, but perhaps we’ll be able to see each other again one day.”

As Chen Nan was passing through the imperial garden, he stopped in his tracks. Among the greenery, hidden from view, he dimly caught sight of two familiar figures. He looked left and right and noticed no one was present, so he used his qinggong to transform his body into an inconspicuous shadow, floating in the imperial garden.

Odd rocks were scattered throughout the verdant pine, cypress, and bamboo in the garden. Century year old wisteria twisted in between them, adorning the garden with exquisite lushness. The swiftly running spring water and the specks of golden scales gleaming in the small, limpid lake added a lively aura to the fresh, lush scenery.

Hidden among the bamboo was a unique, exquisite pavilion. Two beautiful silhouettes stood in the pavilion. One carried peerless and magnificent style, incomparably alluring. The other was elegant and enlightened, remarkably delicate.

Chen Nan’s heart skipped a beat. He could clearly see the appearance of the two ladies. The former was the Eldest Princess Chu Yue, while the latter was Nalan Ruoshui that he had surprisingly not seen for the past few days. He had witnessed the Eldest Princess’s unordinary cultivation, so he didn’t dare tread too closely, afraid of being detected. He had no alternative but to stay distant and listen intently, unmoving.

Chu Yue was holding onto Nalan Ruoshui’s hand. “In fact, Sima Lingkong is already very outstanding. There aren’t many youths in the imperial capital that are capable of comparing with him!”

Nalan Ruoshui was somewhat vexed. “You’re actually speaking on behalf of that disciple of lust?”

“Ruoshui, you’ve misunderstood me. I only wish to discuss the matter as it stands. Men are all similar in manner; what man isn’t fond of beauty?”

“But I truly don’t hold the least bit of feeling towards him.”

Chu Yue bitterly laughed. “In the eyes of commoners, we’re golden branches and jade leaves of nobility. Our whole lives are filled with glory, splendour, wealth, and status, without a grievance to worry about. But is reality actually like this? I think our hearts know the answer to this. Our identities cause us to lose out on many things. For example, we cannot speak of feelings with others before marriage. This is the grievance of a woman of status.”

Nalan Ruoshui quietly sighed. “What if I already have some feelings towards another?”

Chu Yue faced Nalan Ruoshui squarely. “I’ve already heard from others about the thing that happened at the Residence of Eccentrics that day. I’ve already guessed that you only took advantage of Chen Nan to reject Sima Lingkong. Don’t tell me you actually hold some feelings towards him?”

When Chen Nan heard this, his heart began to beat wildly.

Nalan Ruoshui looked at Chu Yue face-to-face and said, “And if I do?”

Chu Yue was fairly startled. “How can the two of you possibly be together? Isn’t this true? If we’re talking about appearance, he is far from Sima Lingkong’s equal. If we’re talking about ability, then that’s even more out of the question. His power was lost. Even you, a skilled state official, couldn’t produce wonderful hands to return spring and create a medical miracle. He’s already hopeless. Moreover, he’s unable to start cultivating from anew. This is something you’ll find difficult to hear, but he’s currently already a useless person. I already don’t have any hope for him.”

These words unmistakably travelled to Chen Nan’s ears. Although considering it from another point of view, it was all true, Chen Nan still found it exceptionally ear-piercing.

Nalan Ruoshui turned her head to the side and said, “You don’t understand…”, but she didn’t continue with her words.

The Eldest Princess said, “Ruoshui, you’re playing with fire. It’s impossible for you to be with him.”

“I know, so for the past few days, I haven’t visited the Residence of Eccentrics at all.”

“It seems having you go to the Residence of Eccentrics to treat his illness really was a mistake. Fortunately, you haven’t gone in too deep. Time can weather anything. In a short while, you’ll forget about this person.”

Nalan Ruoshui abruptly snapped her head back towards her. “You aren’t going to kill him, right?”

A cold light flashed through Chu Yue’s elegant eyes. She smiled. “Why would I do that? If it were for the sake of allowing you to forget about this experience, I’d ruthlessly kill him without mercy. But I know this kind of action wouldn’t have any kind of effect; it would only make you hate me for a lifetime. Don’t worry. I won’t take action against him. My father’s sixtieth birthday is in three days. After my father’s birthday, I’ll give Chen Nan an official position far away from the capital. This is what is best for you, Sima Lingkong, and Chen Nan.”

Chen Nan noticed the cold light in the Eldest Princess’s eyes and knew that Chu Yue was planning to kill him. In no way was she going to give him an official position away from the capital. Now that he was already a ‘useless person’, he didn’t hold any ‘value’. For the mere sake of maintaining the Little Princess’s clear reputation, she wouldn’t allow him to continue living in the world. Additionally, it benefited the affair involving the two ministers’ children.

His heart turned cold. He never thought this peerlessly magnificent Eldest Princess’s scheming would actually be this profound. He never saw through this incomparably gorgeous woman’s façade. It was only today when he eavesdropped on the conversation between her and Nalan Ruoshui did he become aware of how dreadful she truly was. Although thinking over it from another point of view, Chu Yue had no choice but to take behave like this. From her actions, one could pry a little bit into her stratagems.

The Eldest Princess and Nalan Ruoshui conversed for a long time. With a detached point of view, Chen Nan saw it all very clearly. Throughout the entire conversation, Chu Yue continued to put all her effort in persuading Nalan Ruoshui to marry Sima Lingkong. Inharmonious ministers are detrimental to the nation. For the sake of the nation, she was to abandon her feelings.

Chen Nan could faintly see the shadow of Tantai Xuan in Chu Yue. They were equally as beautiful, equally as intelligent, and equally as deceitful.

At last, Chu Yue said, “Let’s go to my room. There’s no need for us to stay here.”

Nalan Ruoshui said, “No, I want to calm down a bit by myself. You go back first, alright?”

Chu Yue grudgingly turned around and left.

By her lonesome, Nalan Ruoshui stood in the pavilion. She murmured, “If you were esteemed, if you had unrivalled power…” The glistening of teardrops flashed about her eyes as she left in sorrow.

Chen Nan clearly watched all of this unfold. He clenched his fists and left as well.

Arriving outside the imperial palace, he entered a palanquin. Two rows of warriors guarded him at either side as they headed towards the Residence of Eccentrics. Now that he discovered Chu Yue’s dreadful scheming, he only just realized the true purpose of these warriors. One aspect of their job was to protect him. The other main aspect was to prevent him from absconding. He recalled those several formidable warriors guarding his courtyard and its surroundings. It could be said that among a hundred of Chu Yue’s secrets, not a single one was divulged.

After returning to the Residence of Eccentrics, Chen Nan vaguely heard the Little Princess’s voice.

“Poison-bobo, just give me one.”

The Old Poison Devil said, “No. My darlings aren’t raised for consumption. Last time, you seized Xiao Jin and Xiao Lu. I still haven’t found you to settle this account, yet you actually came back again today.”

“Because… I used your little snake to make something really delicious to eat. They’re much tastier than ordinary snakes.”

The Old Poison Devil was so furious, he was close to vomiting blood. He loudly cried out, “I’m not a breeder! My treasures aren’t delicious! If you still won’t leave, I’ll shout for that magical researcher, that damn old woman.”

“Poison-bobo, what do you think these are?”

“Ah! Firecrackers! What the hell are you doing?! Don’t ignite them! My darlings will be scared silly! How about I give you one small snake, okay?”

“No. Ten.”

“Ah! You’re killing me here. These are all rare breeds. They’re all extraordinarily precious… Ah! Don’t ignite them! I’ll give them to you.”

After a pause, the Old Poison Devil said, “Here, they’re all in this bag.”

“Poison-bobo, you’re the best, hehe.”

“Wu… You little girl, hurry up and leave.”

“Hehe, see you later, Poison-bobo. You don’t have to send me off. I’ll be coming by regularly to see you.”

The Old Poison Devil howled in grief.

After hearing this conversation, Chen Nan was left wide-eyed and slack-jawed. The princess actually enjoyed eating snakes. Not only that, but for the purpose of satisfying her cravings, she actually even threatened the Old Poison Devil. This truly was a little demon that was completely deserving of such a title.

After a moment, the Old Poison Devil appeared on top of the wall. With a look that told of the recent ire he had just calmed from, he said, “Just now, the endlessly evil little witch came to pass on an imperial edict. His Imperial Majesty’s sixtieth birthday will be in three days. All the eccentrics of the Residence of Eccentrics have been invited to take part.” After that, he changed the subject. “Reportedly, it’ll be very lively. A small state will send three young dragon riders to participate. According to some rumours, they’re planning to showcase their capabilities during the banquet in front of all of the Empire of Chu’s young heroes.”

Chen Nan asked, “What? What’s that all about?”

The Old Poison Devil explained, “That small state was originally a vassal state of Empire of Chu, but in recent years, their strength has gradually grown. They secretly obtained the support of a nameless power and now wish to liberate themselves from the Empire of Chu’s control. This time, they sent three young dragon riders as a demonstration of their military force to the Empire of Chu. If the talent of these three people is greater than that of the young generation from our Chu, it would be tantamount to firmly whipping the hegemonic Empire of Chu with a resounding slap in the face.”

Chen Nan looked indifferent. “That’s good. Fighting for their nation’s freedom, I support these three national heroes.”

The Old Poison Devil nervously looked around in all four directions. “Boy, do you not want to live? How can these words come out of your mouth? According to the secretive—but reliable—source, these three people are already remarkably famous among practitioners of the western continent. After they suddenly vanished without a trace three years ago, I reckon for the past three years, they have been bitterly cultivating in secret constantly. In all likelihood, their current power must already be tremendous for them to be paying a visit. According to some predictions, these three are at the very minimum already at the level of second ranked practitioners. This kind of terrifying strength is very rare among the young generation. Of the young eccentrics from the Residence of Eccentrics, I fear there is only that muscular man Sima Lingkong who is capable of serving as their opponent.”

“Just now, the endlessly evil little witch said if someone had the strength to fight these three dragon riders, the emperor will confer upon them an enormous reward. If only you recovered your power. This is indeed an opportunity that is hard to come by even once! Just think! If you wielded Houyi Bow to shoot the dragons out of the sky, how splendid would that be? It’d be an act of heroism! Just thinking about it excites me. Not only would it be a like riding a labouring horse to great deeds, but your name would also move the continent. How could the emperor not attempt to entice this kind of genius to their side? Just think… Heihei.”

The Old Poison Devil descended from the wall and went back to researching the art of poison.

Chen Nan stood in his yard. His mind didn’t calm for a long time. Finally, he tightly clenched his fists and came to a decision: he would no longer conceal his formidable strength. He already knew that Nalan Ruoshui’s heart accommodated his figure. However, he currently still couldn’t forget about Yu Xin, nor could he begin a new relationship.

But he still held an incredibly good opinion of Nalan Ruoshui. Recalling how she would carefully help him treat his illness every day and how she had patiently taught him how to read every single character, his heart was moved. He absolutely couldn’t watch blankly as Ruoshui suffered misfortune.

He pushed open the courtyard gate and said to those several warriors outside, “Please immediately report to Her Highness the Eldest Princess. Inform her I have an urgent matter I need to discuss with her.”

Those warriors gave each other glances, and one of them hastily left. After about an hour, he heard the sound of the Eldest Princess greeting the eccentrics inside the residence. He knew it was at long last the time for his display.

Chen Nan entered his house and took out Houyi Bow. He lightly stroked the pitch-black back of the bow with his hand. Sensing the trace undulation coming from the Godly Bow, he began employing his ancestral profound skill. In a flash, great power surged out of his body. The bamboo forest in his yard followed this wave of power and violently trembled endlessly until all its foliage was knocked to the ground.

Specks of golden light and a dim golden glow suffused out from his body. Chen Nan was brimming with tenacious self-confidence. The temperament of his entire being had changed in an instant. He was a completely different person than he was just a moment ago.

He fixed a white feathered arrow into the bowstring. His left foot was bent a step forward; his right foot back. His left hand aimed the bow towards the sky; his right hand strenuously pulled the bowstring tight. Golden light spread every which way. A thousand rays of splendid light radiated outwards. Houyi Bow emitted an endless radiance. Its sublime light eclipsed the celestial sun. Chen Nan and Houyi Bow were of the same flesh and blood. The light emanating from their beings was equally as intense.

A dense haze of light surrounded Houyi Bow. Like water, the golden light bubbled towards the white feathered arrow. The wind thundered and the world paled.

A wave of tremendous power spread out with Chen Nan at the center throughout the entire Residence of Eccentrics. All the eccentrics in the Residence of Eccentrics sensed this exceedingly powerful undulation, and everyone was completely gob smacked. With the help of Houyi Bow’s power, the intense power being emitted from Chen Nan definitely reached the level of fifth ranked exceptional experts.

The Eldest Princess also sensed it. An inconceivable look appeared on her face. She asked herself, “Could it be him? How is this possible? Did he really recover?”

After his power reached its peak, Chen Nan lightly released his fingers. The white feathered arrow, like a frightening long rainbow, flickered in dazzling brilliance as it pierced the sky. The sky above the Residence of Eccentrics thundered and quaked.

The golden, glowing arrow reached the white clouds before suddenly exploding into many fragments. An eruption of dazzling, powerful light appeared in the sky above the imperial capital. The trail the golden arrow had left behind during its ascent seemed like radiant lightning streaking from the heavens, adjoining it with the Residence of Eccentrics.

Everyone in the imperial capital could see the scene in the sky and let out alarmed cries.

The eccentrics of the Residence of Eccentrics were all left aghast. Everyone had an unfathomable expression. All the snakes, bugs, and other creatures in the Old Poison Devil’s courtyard frantically ran about in chaos. The Flying Dragon in Sima Lingkong’s courtyard was so frightened, it shook like a leaf and curled up on the ground.

Chen Nan let out a long cry to the sky. His voice shook the vast sky. He nocked a second white feathered arrow into the bowstring. Again, the wind thundered as another wave of incredible power surged throughout the entirety of the Residence of Eccentrics.

This time, the golden arrow was aimed at the ground. The radiance encompassed the glowing arrow. Like a golden dragon, it lacerated the surface of the earth and directly penetrated underground. Gigantic fissures half a meter wide spread out from the crater left behind by the arrow. The entire Residence of Eccentrics violently shook. One after another, the houses within the residence began to collapse. The explosive rumbling unceasingly reverberated through everyone’s ears.

At this moment, everyone in a circumference of several li could feel the earth tremble. Everyone was utterly shocked.

After a long time, everything finally began to calm. Over half of the houses in the Residence of Eccentrics had crumbled. Everyone standing among the ruins was frightened wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Finally, everyone’s sights focused on Chen Nan.

This formerly ordinary youth seemed to have discarded his body and exchanged his bones. Currently, he was emanating a great, intimidating, imposing manner. Everyone couldn’t help but begin to revere him in their hearts.

The Old Poison Devil was the first to awaken from his stupor. He was unable to contain his miserable bawling: “Oh God! My darlings! Wu… Who did I provoke to incur this wrath? I’ve already been unfortunate enough to be near that damn old woman who blows up her house all day long; I didn’t think the other seemingly honest, private guy would be even more heinous to actually destroy the entire residence! Wu… Darlings…”

Sima Lingkong looked beyond ashen. His Flying Dragon had been smashed and injured—the flesh of its right wing was left in a disgustingly bloody state. When he saw that the criminal mastermind, the bringer of calamity, was actually Chen Nan, fury swelled in his heart. At the same time, he was even more astonished. He was envious of Chen Nan’s tyrannical power.

A bright light flashed through Chu Yue’s eyes. She pondered over something at first, but afterwards, she was delighted. Today, she was able to see the might of Houyi Bow with her own two eyes. Its tremendous power had stunned her very being. This power, which was not one whit inferior to that of fifth ranked experts, meant the Empire of Chu had just undoubtedly gained another exceptional expert.

As the Old Poison Devil was crying and cursing, rubble could be seen atop of the Old Witch’s head as she crawled her way out of the ruins of her house.

“Which bastard destroyed my house? How audacious to plot against me like this. Absolutely ridiculous. If you have the ability, come have a decisive one-on-one battle with me.” With that said, the Old Witch floated into the air. When she was able to clearly see the scene before her, she all of the sudden dropped from the sky.

“Heavens! This is even greater than what a fifth ranked Magic Daoshi can achieve! How terribly frightening.”

A copious amount of troops had rushed here. For a moment, the Residence of Eccentrics was in utter disarray.

Chu Yue promptly relayed the information to the troops and ordered them to blockade the place. After that, she dispatched men to arrange brand new residences for every eccentric.

After completely handling all the problems in front of her, Chu Yue brought Chen Nan to the imperial palace. In a private room, she asked him to detail all the events that had just conspired.

“Chen Nan, have you recovered your power?”

“Yes, it has been recovered in full.”

“That’s great! My Empire of Chu has gained yet another remarkable eccentric. Is this the matter you called me for?”

“Yes, I wished to tell the princess this good news.”

“Why did you shoot two arrows with Houyi Bow? Not only did you attract the amazement of everyone in the imperial capital, but you also destroyed the Residence of Eccentrics.” When her words reached this topic, an unhappy look appeared on Chu Yue’s face.

Chen Nan sneered in his heart. He had already prepared a lie. “After I recovered my power, the vital qi within my body began to constantly expand until I lost control and only wanted to unleash it, so I used Houyi Bow. The first arrow was shot into the sky resulting in a unique, brilliant view. I feared this would cause unnecessary trouble, so the second arrow was shot underground. I didn’t expect the might of the golden arrow to actually be this great for it to actually destroy half of the Residence of Eccentrics. Princess, please punish me.”

Chu Yue’s unhappy expression faded. She smiled as she said, “A residence isn’t much anyway. As long as you recovered your power, even if you destroyed the place again, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

After the inquiry, Chu Yue reiterated to him the matter involving the three dragon riders. He needed to begin his preparations. In three days’ time, if no one else was capable of matching those three people, then he would be required to go up onto the stage wielding Houyi Bow.

After Chen Nan listened to this, he asked, “If we do this, won’t my secret state official status go from secret to public? Wouldn’t everybody know?”

Chu Yue replied, “We only needed to keep you as a secret state official before because we were in need of concealing your strength so no one would be on guard against you. This is the time for your secret to become public. You must demonstrate the might of my Chu.”

Chu Yue and Chen Nan conversed for a very long time. The atmosphere was much more jovial than before.

Chen Nan secretly gave an icy laugh in his mind. Finally, he stood up and bowed to Chu Yue. “There’s this matter in which I politely ask for the princess’s assistance.”

“Oh? What is it?”

“I want to take Nalan Ruoshui as my wife. Can the princess please assist me with this?” Chen Nan didn’t have any other better plans but to push himself forward onto the stage and directly compete with Sima Lingkong. So long as he was able to temporarily prevent the Sima Family from requesting marriage, all the matters afterward would be much simpler to handle.

“This…” Chu Yue crumpled her refined eyebrows. She found this a bit difficult to handle. If Chen Nan had put forward this kind of request in the past, she wouldn’t even need to think about it before immediately firmly refusing him. But the present couldn’t be compared with the past. Now, Chen Nan wielding Houyi Bow was equivalent to a fifth ranked exceptional expert. Furthermore, it was expected that in three days’ time, his name would move the world.

As for this genius, she could only inveigle and placate him. But if Nalan Ruoshui were really married to Chen Nan, it would undoubtedly offend the greatly influential Sima Family. This was a complex problem for her to solve.

“Great General Sima is currently using his eldest son to raise the topic of marriage. He has already requested my father the emperor’s blessing, but he hasn’t decided yet. I’ll report your request to my father and ask him to make a decision.”

1 紅顏/rosy cheeks can also mean ‘beauties’.

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